Child psychology is the branch of developmental psychology, which is devoted to the study of the development of human beings during the early stages of their life spans. Child psychology has come to encompass pre-natal, and infant periods as well as the adolescents and young adults.
The typical areas of study within child psychology are physical development, brain and cognitive development, language and communication development, social and emotional development and identity formation or the development of the self.
Parents are often intrigued and perplexed by the behaviors of their children; they often wonder what is “normal”. Developmental knowledge of child psychology provides a framework of where a child falls within normal expectations and where she or he does not. Any given piece of behavior can be normal, mildly abnormal, or reflective of serious problems depending on its developmental timing.
Knowledge of the abilities and developmental tasks that are typical of children of a given age can inform our decision making regarding children substantially. As practitioners, knowing what developmental tasks the child is currently struggling with helps us empathize with the child’s sense of reality, allowing us to enter the child’s world, as opposed to merely seeing him or her as a bundle of symptoms.
Developmental knowledge also provides us with a lens for reviewing a child’s history. To understand how earlier experiences have influence the child’s development and contributed to current problems, we need to know the child’s weaknesses and limitations for handling stress and trauma at a given age and how, as a result, the child may have responded internally to past trauma and stress. These steps have been carefully considered and integrated in the process of student evaluation at the Reed Institute.
Looking at the history of the child Psychology it is hard to ignore the influence that a few prominent figures such as, Piaget and Vygotsky have had on the field. However, the Current prominent framework of understanding within modern developmental child psychology is one called the “Transactional Model”. According to this model, development is the outcome of transactions between the child and her environment. This simple standing idea encompasses a complex and dynamic reality. Essentially, development is founded on the child’s innate characteristics, unfolded according to a maturational timetable, and moved forward through a series of tasks and challenges of increasing complexity that the child must master in order to extend her ability to function within herself and within her environment. From a maturational point of view, the course of development seems inevitable. However, from the very beginning, the child’s transactions with immediate and wider environments influence development. The transactional model also recognizes that the child works to organize his experience. Rather than being a passive container into which information is poured, “The child actively creates his or her own environment, increasingly so with advancing development”.
Naturally, we at the Reed Institute have adopted the transactional framework, which is the underlying theory for many of our programs. Perhaps the best example is our intervention program for young children where thorough understanding of the transactional model is necessary for successful implementation of intervention strategies.